Clear Channel calls for more radio consolidation; unions say consolidation already hurts democracy

Clear Channel Presses FCC To Raise Ownership Caps In Largest Markets
by Jeffrey Yorke and Carol Archer, Radio and Records

Clear Channel’s legal eagles landed in two FCC Commissioners’ offices earlier this week to influence their positions on expanding ownership cap limits in the largest radio markets. For months, Clear Channel lobbyists have been pressing the flesh on Capitol Hill and in the halls of The Portals, the FCC headquarters along the Southwest Washington banks of the Potomac.

On Tuesday (Aug. 29), Clear Channel's executive VP and chief legal officer Andrew Levin, senior VP of government affairs Jessica Marventano, and outside legal advisor John Fiorini III of the influential K Street law firm, Wiley Rein & Fielding, held separate meetings with both Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate and her legal assistant Chris Robbins, and with Commissioner McDowell and his legal assistant, Cristina Chou Pauze.

“We are certainly open and willing to listen to all proposals, Tate’s assistant Robbins told R&R on Thursday, (Aug. 31). “There was no specific proposal. They just talked about the possibility of further expansion in the largest markets.”

Robbins said that it was obvious that Clear Channel’s interest in expanding market presence was due to its concerns about “audience fractioning” caused by growing competition from iPods and satellite radio operators Sirius and XM.

The discussions are part of the on-going 120-day comment period initiated by the FCC earlier this summer when it invited public comment its obligatory review of media ownership rules. Current caps on large market ownership limit one group to owning up to eight stations – five on one band, three on another – in a market the size of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington or even Baltimore.

But based on a document obtained by R&R, Clear Channel specifically uses New York City -- with 149 stations in the area -- as an example that it says shows that owning eight stations in markets with 45-to-59 stations is just 18% of the market, owning 10 stations in markets with 60-to 74 stations would be 17% of the market and owning a dozen stations in markets of 75 or more stations would be 16% or less of the market.


Consolidation Is Doing 'Irreparable Harm,' AFTRA Head Tells FCC
by Jeffrey Yorke, Radio and Records

American Federal of Television and Radio Artists president John Connolly said Thursday (Aug. 31) that “consolidation of media ownership is doing irreparable harm to local and national news coverage and thus to the key fabric of democracy in our country. “

Connolly spoke at the FCC Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the National Latino Media Council at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps were in attendance. The meeting is part of the on-going process initiated by the FCC to gather public opinion on the effects of media consolidation as the FCC considers re-writing of regulations and possible expansion of ownership limits.

"By allowing the reduction of outlets for diverse opinions via the concentration of power in fewer and fewer corporate hands, the Federal
Communications Commission condemns Americans to a country where the public interest suffers, democracy suffers, and working people suffer,” Connolly testified.

He added, "AFTRA members oppose the continued de-regulation of the media and entertainment industries--and the resulting continued concentration of ownership in fewer hands. We urge the commission to protect and enhance the fundamental right and public interest of the American people as true owners of the airwaves."

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